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Islam and Politics ( 22 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Is Islamic Liberalism The Answer?


By Mohammed Alsaif

20 May 2013

It seems that the Liberal / Conservative tug of war is on the rise again over the disputable subject of Saudi liberalism, as a group of young Saudi liberals attempted for the second time to celebrate what they claim it to be a “Saudi Liberal Day.” The Saudi liberal movement has started once again promoting their principles and ideologies to the Saudi public with more determination to prove they are here to stay.

This year the liberal movement is trying to appear as if they reached a more mature level of self representation after suffering many cultural and legal battles. Some symbols of the Saudi liberal movement are on the way to complete their first year in jail, which brought much needed attention to the new movement with local and international pleadings for their release.

A considerable milestone achievement this year was the gradual endorsement of the concept of Islamic liberalism as a way of offering unlimited flexibility to accommodate all factions and trends of the Saudi society. Although the idea is facing much resistance by some liberals who think that the Islamic liberalism concept would only create misconception to the true understanding of liberalism, and generate a social image of liberalism trying to satisfy religious conservatives, but if adopted would give Saudi liberalism a broader base of supporters in the long run.

On the other hand, some commentators thought that the Saudi liberal movement has failed throughout the past two years to deliver a comprehensive and acceptable understanding of the liberal concept to the general public. They insist that the particularly conservative Saudi society is still seeing the liberal movement as an foreign ideology trying to extract the values and beliefs they were raised by.

Another indicator of the weak progress of the movement is its inability to attract new prominent personalities to join the campaign. The support and interest of official media is still neglecting what it considers as an ineffectual movement. The only media coverage they were able to generate was through personal social media tools and some sympathetic blogs.

Although the Saudi liberal movement may seem to lack a defined strategy or clear vision to lead the coming steps of social integration and interaction, the mere persistence they demonstrated over the past two years made them eligible for public sympathy and compassion. Maybe by their third year they would progress to be a healthy integral and active part of the Saudi community. But they would surely meet much stronger resistance and more battles by the eager opposition.

A tweet: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

— Mahatma Gandhi